I completed a half Ironman…something I never would have ever thought I would even think about. I used to hate running, never really biked more than a trip to the park or swam more than a doggie paddle to the raft. But I swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles consecutively on September 11, 2011.
Since I became addicted to running after Chicago Marathon 2009, I have been inspired to try new things. A few of my friends have done tris and my coworker who had gotten me into my running club had done a few half Ironmans and even a full Ironman! I decided this might be fun to try. A couple of my friends had mentioned it to each other before. So one day we decided to sign up. First we considered the Timberman 70.3, but then decided that bike ride was too hilly and the course was a bit difficult. We decided to try the Pumpkinman.
I still couldn’t believe how fast time flew by and how little I felt prepared. Unfortunately life took a turn and my huge work deadline was extended a month, which meant lots of work to do and not enough time for sleep and training. I often found myself trying to fit in 2 workouts a day, working 10 hour days, and only sleeping 5 hours a night. I had at one point considered giving up on the half Ironman because it was becoming stressful and not fun. But Dave, some of my coworkers and friends reassured me that I could do it, so I continued to train.
Before I knew it, Saturday, September 10th had arrived. That afternoon, Dave and I headed to Maine. We picked up my information from registration and then headed back to the hotel to hang out a bit before dinner. The only thoughts going through my head were, “I don’t feel like doing this, I just want it to be done!”
We went to Cartelli’s Bar and Grill in Dover, NH and met up with my friends. I thought they were super excited for the race, but I had found out that they had the same thoughts as me! I felt much better and was able to enjoy my dinner. I got the Chicken Saltimbocca, pan seared chicken topped with prosciutto, mushrooms, sage, mozzarella cheese and marsala wine sauce. It was deeeeeelicious! This iPhone picture doesn’t do it justice! I may have to find a recipe to recreate it!
We finished dinner and once I got back to the hotel I finished getting everything ready for the morning. I went to bed pretty much as soon as I triple checked that I had everything! I got up around 4:15 AM so that I could eat my oatmeal and get to the race start to set up my transition.
I was in the middle of setting up the transition area, and someone called out my name! It was another fellow DailyMile user, Gretchen ! I was excited to see her because it was her first half Ironman as well! After some small talk with Gretchen and hitting the porta potty one more time, I wiggled into the wetsuit and headed down to the water.
Unfortunately there was a lot of fog so we couldn’t see the buoys. We had to wait…40 minutes passed. The race director announced that they might reduce the swim to the sprint distance because we could see that buoy. Not going to lie…I was kind of looking forward to that! But my friends and I were talking about how it wouldn’t be the same because we have trained for that distance and we would be lying when we wore our finisher shirt!
I really had to pee, so I decided to run to the porta potty one more time. I made it back and we still hadn’t started yet! The fog finally lifted and we started the swim an hour late. My stomach was growling! I had expected to be eating by now while biking! Right before we started the swim, the race director asked my wave who was doing their first half Ironman. Nearly half the women raised their hand! I was pumped to know that. A woman nearby was even doing her FIRST ever triathlon!
The swim wasn’t too bad. I was a little nervous the whole time because I had bought a new pair of goggles and hadn’t worn them yet. They weren’t the same as my old pairs either. Luckily, I LOVED them! They worked so well. I was glad that my on the fly decision of wearing something I had never worn before worked out well. However, one vital thing I forgot was to glide my neck. I didn’t even think of it, which is probably due to the fact that this was the first time I ever swam in a wet suit! The velcro was scraping up against my neck and it hurt, but I toughed it out. On top of that, I wasn’t even a quarter of the way through and I felt exhausted. I was a little worried, but I was so happy I was wearing the wetsuit! It definitely made me more buoyant and I had a little more confidence. On my second loop I was feeling a little more comfortable and knew I could do it. I did have some incidents where people tugged on my leg or tried to swim over me. I was swimming kind of close to another woman, and this woman coming up from behind decided she wanted to try to squeeze through us. While doing this, she tried to swim over me. I was getting frustrated because if she was sighting at all, she would see there was no room! I decided to be the “bigger” person (or wimpier person?) and swam out a little farther to avoid any collisions.
After you finish the swim, you have to run up a hill. They call it the Powderhouse Hill Climb challenge. I wanted to try to run up the entire thing, and I almost made it! But for the last little stretch, I walked a bit. I scurried to the transition area and slipped of my wetsuit. I was pleasantly surprised when it came off a lot easier than I had expected!
I took my time and got ready for the bike. I had put on a biking shirt so that I could store some Gu, Sports Beans, and a bagel. I’ve had a few coworkers end up in the hospital for not hydrating or fueling properly, so I was being extra careful!
I headed off on the bike. Things were going well, but I started to feel pretty tired. I should have done more long rides off the bike path which is pretty flat. My coworker had dropped a few hints of this but didn’t want to be too pushy with it. Next time he should slap me in the face and tell me to do more hills! There were points of the ride that I felt like I was crawling. I went pretty slow, but I kept telling myself, “Just complete it, don’t worry about your time!” The course was a two loop course. On the second loop I was feeling a lot better so I picked up my speed a little bit. I enjoyed the scenery and slowly picked away at my Luna bar, Clif Bar, Sports beans and Gu. As I got towards the finish, my right quad started to tighten up a bit. I decided to slow down. It was better to go slow and be able to do my favorite part of the race-the run!
When I arrived at the transition, I saw Dave. I was excited and he got to see me head off for the run! On my first loop of the run, I saw two of my girlfriends who were rocking the race! They even placed! I also saw Kim and Danielle. They did so amazing! I was so proud of them!
While running, I was behind a couple. The woman had jokingly said, “Are you allowed to draft in running?” I said, “Yup!” We ended up striking up a conversation. The woman was doing her first half Ironman because her guy friend had convinced her. The guy was signed up for his first full Ironman. We chatted for a bit, but then parted ways as the woman headed to the porta potty and the guy stopped to tie his shoe.
I had run out of water in my handheld water bottle and was approaching a water stop. But at the same time a police car and ambulance went whirling by. The people at the water stop got distracted and were holding the water cups AWAY from the runners. I was SO thirsty but didn’t feel like tackling a volunteer to get a cup. I kept going. I knew a little bit farther up there was another stop. I sucked down that water and sopped the wet sponge all over me. They had sponges that were soaked in ice water that they were handing out. These felt AMAZING!
When running on one of the main roads, I heard someone yell, “GO JESS!” It was Ashley’s college roommate, Sarah! Sarah and her husband live nearby and knew I was running the race. I was all smiles because I felt so special that they came out looking for me!
My legs felt really good throughout the run but I wanted to keep a steady 9 pace. I didn’t know how my body would react after the swim and bike so I wanted to play it safe. I had to remember that my goal was to finish this half Ironman not to win it.
What do you know…did I complete my goal? YOU BETCHA! And I’m so proud of myself!
Swim 42:03 T1 3:41 Bike 3:34 (avg 15.7 mph) T2 2:08 Run 1:59 (avg 9:04 pace) Total Time 6:20:39
(Sorry not a lot of pics because I feel bad stealing them off the race website when they say “DO NOT COPY”)
After I finished, I checked in with my ladies and then Dave and I headed out to grab some food. I forgot to buy Dave a meal ticket and they were sold out, so he would have to stand outside with a sad puppy dog face as I ate. The poor guy didn’t eat anything all during the race! I probably was more fueled than him at this point! We headed to a Mexican place near our hotel and then made our way home. I felt tired, but I actually felt more sore after a marathon. I think using the different muscles for the different sports helped.
Will I do another half Ironman (HIM)? I hope so! It was a great experience and really had me push my limits and try new things. Next time around, I want to be more strict with my training and really follow the plan. I was so proud of my girls who rocked the half Ironman, but at the same time I was disappointed that I had done 40 minutes slower than them! I hope to improve upon my training and be as good as them for my next HIM! Having said all that, I probably won’t do another one for a couple of years or when Dave decides to try one. It is a big time commitment that took up all hours of my day that weren’t work. I don’t know how you triathletes do it! And I felt like I was a “jack-of-all-trades but a master of none”. I still haven’t gotten out of my marathon kick, so seeing my running be somewhat compromised so that I could cycle and swim made me sad.
I’ll leave you with my HIM Lessons Learned:
Swim in your wetsuit before the race
Glide your neck when wearing your wetsuit
Swim more than once a week and include one open water swim a week!
Ride on varied terrains and do hills!
Do more brick workouts
Just have fun and complete the race!
Would you rather be a jack-of-all-trades or a master?
I am hoping to focus more on my marathon training for a while and then might switch to tri’s or even try out an ultra! So for now, I want to try to be a master!
Do you love seeing people you know out in the crowd?
Seeing people I know in the crowd definitely helps me get through the race. Especially if I know that they are going to be out there, it keeps me distracted and I just look for them!
What are some lessons learned you had during races?